Why I am boycotting Games Workshop stores, and so should YOU.


Editor’s note. This is THE MOST POPULAR POST ON THIS WEBSITE, BAR NONE. Keep in mind that it is over 4 years old and does not apply to the *current* GW chicanery– this post was a response to the 2011 price hikes, not the 2013 ones.  6/28/13: I’ve shut down comments on this– not because I mind them at all, it’s just that this, being the most popular post on this blog (still), is attracting 2 spam “let me sell you something” comments a day.  Sorry about that.  Note from 11/2015: recent decisions on GW’s part maybe (maybe!) will influence me to be more sympathetic to GW’s position in a modern marketplace.  Mind you, I still consider them to be bullying dinosaurs, but they don’t have the influence they once did, and the idea that they might be considering reprinting the games that I once found enticing may play into my sympathies as well.  I can be bought off with a reprint of Epic, Man o’ War and some other classics.. maybe..

No GW, no more! No GW, No MORE!

No GW, not any more. (dead image of GW logo with a big “No” through it)

Does the headline seem reactionary?  Am I displaying too much angst?  Heck, I’ll cop to that. I have my reasons. Let’s review:

The corporate entity known as Games Workshop has announced another set of price increases for their retail products, a news item that’s become a hallmark of every Spring in the last decade, it seems. One learns to expect this from GW. However, this particular price raise has such a pervasive, rancid stink on it, it’s a little hard to ignore. As if someone had cut a hole in the wallboard, deposited a trout and wallpapered over the hole in hopes we wouldn’t notice.

First of all, the facts. To steal from John Adams, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

  • GW’s 2011 price raises will be on average 22% for any given item and as high as 25% for some items. Don’t take my word for it, they have not made a secret of the fact.
  • GW also has just released a line called “Finecast”, which are presumably resin replacements for the metal line. The theory being stated was resin casting will be cheaper for consumer. GW has raised their Finecast prices, too.
  • The terms and conditions under which independent retailers (both brick & mortar game shops and internet retailers) must follow to sell GW products has changed. These new terms restrict these retailers to selling only in their “world zone” (notice the world map when you enter the GW website? That’s what they consider world zones). Retailers in North America can no longer sell to Australia and New Zealand, even though with markups, currency exchange rates and shipping in the equation, this could result in a price range as high as 60% for GW customers in the Southern hemisphere. No I’m not making this up, it’s all on their website, and not that hard to find.

Games Workshop announced their profits were better than expected for the 2nd half of their fiscal year. (Feel free to check their financial statement– GW is a publicly traded company and they have to reveal profit and loss). GW has undergone a rigorous period of cost-cutting and staff reduction, as well as charging more for less product produced. As a result, GW has made more money than projected. These extra profits have rolled into extra dividends to stock investors, but precious little to research, development, and expansion of product lines.

Finecast

Citadel Finecast: Not the deal that was anticipated.

So, to sum up. Sales are down. New line of allegedly cheap resincast figures at jacked up prices (and, rumor has it, by mail order only!). Profits are up through cutting back on personnel and raising prices. Southern half of the planet essentially embargoed from receiving product. Got the essentials?

Here’s a representative sampling of data, taken from the GW release on the price change:

Code Description CURRENT USD NEW PRICE Percent Change
48-28 SPACE MARINE SCOUT BIKE $12.00 $15.00 25%
91-11 VAMPIRE COUNTS GRAVE GUARD $33.00 $41.25 25%
88-12 LIZARDMEN TEMPLE GUARD $33.00 $41.25 25%
89-21 BLACK ORCS $33.00 $41.25 25%
DARK ANGELS CHAPTER UPGRADE FRAME $13.25 $16.50 25%
BATTLEFLEET GOTHIC ARMADA $40.00 $49.50 24%
66-90 WARHAMMER 40K BASING KIT $20.00 $24.75 24%
48-08 SPACE MARINE BATTLEFORCE $90.00 $110.00 22%
43-09 CHAOS SPACE MARINE BATTLEFORCE $90.00 $110.00 22%
56-09 TAU BATTLEFORCE $90.00 $110.00 22%
82-11 BRETONNIAN PEGASUS KNIGHT $15.00 $18.25 22%
IMPERIAL CRASHED AQUILA LANDER $24.75 $30.00 21%
05-06 MORANNON ORCS $27.25 $33.00 21%
11-05 RANGERS OF MIDDLE EARTH $27.25 $33.00 21%
09-15 CORSAIRS OF UMBAR $27.25 $33.00 21%

That’s just a few product items to give you an idea of how I get the average percentage increase number.

The immediate impact will be that most retail items will go up a little more than a fifth of the original price, and secondary outlets will pass that on in the bottom line. Southern hemisphere painting services that were buying in bulk and selling whole units pre-painted as a specialty item (e.g., PaintedFigs.com) will probably get out of that business as the margin has just become unprofitable. That’s a sad thing.

Sales down, profits up (due to budget manipulation and cost-cutting, not new product). What’s the best way to increase sales? Price raises across the board. Forcing half the planet into a gulag zone where they can ruthlessly profit from sales practices. Gouging on the supposedly cheap substitute for metal miniatures. I’m just serving notice that I have had enough. No more. I won’t patronize GW Stores. Believe me, it would be easy enough to patronize them. There’s one about four miles from my house.

Hey, wait a second, you might be saying. YOU don’t play Warhammer. YOU don’t play the Lord of the Rings game. You big hypocrite! Why would this price raise mess even matter to you? Simple. I do shop at the GW stores for lots of things– mostly bits and units with a unique look (like bulk skeletons, zombies and such), bases, glue, and paint. I’m not a regular customer, and I’m certainly not in their favorite demographic of people who are willing to dispense with hundreds of dollars slavishly buying their products. Still, I can do my part. Games Workshop is engaged in predatory capitalism of the worst sort, and it angers me.

I’ll let you in on a little secret– well, honestly, it’s not a secret, it should be obvious after the last decade of GW style capitalism. There’s going to be a lot of angry people and a lot of angry internet chatter as a result of GW’s new prices and distribution policy. You know how much GW will pay attention? Pretty much not at all. Go ahead, fill out an online petition, or join a Facebook group protesting GW’s prices. It won’t matter. The leadership of GW isn’t interested on the impact on the community. It’s interested in the impact on the bottom line– GW acted in a short term fashion, which helped their bottom line for this year. They’ll worry about next year,, next year. All the shouting, and “acts of solidarity” and petitions and internet hate mail is just white noise to them.

The only action that will have ANY impact on them is to influence a trend they DO notice.. profits.

Here’s what I’m suggesting:

1) Stop buying from Games Workshop, stop immediately. Don’t you have enough already?

2) If you are a collector with a large investment and have more to buy, consider buying used, or from a reseller (while they have stock left– I predict that is going to change after retailers and resellers realize that GW is going to be increasingly cost-prohibitive to carry stock for).

3) Switch obsessions. Back in the WARZONE days, it seemed as if there was only one competitor in the same niche as Games Workshop. That’s not the case any more. I’m sure the folks at Privateer Press, Spartan Games, and Battlefront might have something that would appeal to your baser instincts.  (Rob North also suggests Mantic Games as a substitute for Warhammer Fantasy, see his comment to this post)

Consider contacting Games Workshop directly, politely, No hate mail. They’ll just tune it out. They are expecting that. Explain your point of view calmly and the actions you intend to take. Consider a regular letter instead of an email– they are so rare GW might take notice.

In the end, really, anything we as customers do probably won’t make any difference, since not enough people will boycott GW, or switch hobbies, to make a significant impact. GW will either get the message, or it won’t. Until then, GW is working on their marketing strategy for 2012:

“Hey, you whiney consumers! STFU and start BUYING!”

Stop whining, and START BUYING!!

Discussion elsewhere:

Dakka Dakka Forum
The Purple Pawn
Wargame Tradecraft
Official Notice from GW
Dark Sphere (breaks out the price raise by item, cited in table above)
Zac’s Gaming Blog reviews the new Finecast line (note his comment about a price comparison between a Spartan Games Dystopian Wars starter fleet and just TWO Finecast miniatures)

Advertisements

17 responses to “Why I am boycotting Games Workshop stores, and so should YOU.

  1. As a former GW apologist (well, it’s a good enough term for employee I guess), I hit the wall a couple years back, although this does stink of yet another step along the same consumer-unfriendly (and woefully short-sighted) path that they started on about twelve years ago. It’s really rather sad.

    Anyway – I just want to throw a link to Mantic miniatures. They produce some excellent ‘bulk’ units that you’ll find are an excellent substitute for the overpriced GW stuff. They paint up and assemble really, really easily and they’re massively cheaper than GW plastics were even before the last rise. They also have a pretty fun tabletop wargame to go along with, and the rules are available from Mantic, for -free-.

  2. dennis largess

    This will sound so old and obtuse, but so much of the state of hobby manufacture and distribution was unrecoverably damaged and then destroyed by Gary Gygax and TSR.
    Back in the 80s at the hobby shop, there were literally thirty to forty reasonably large game/hobby distributors that serviced the hobby shop business. If you needed orcs, and Grenadier was in short supply in this area, I could call up oh Windmill in Illinois, Coulter-Bennet in California, MMD in Texas. Someone would have Grenadier orcs and through the magic of UPS, they’d be in Alexandria in about three days.
    When TSR signed the deal with Toys R Us, that let that chain sell D&D materia at prices below wholesale, it made hobby shops pretty superfluous, and the distribution network unable to compete and survive.
    One can argue that one company should not have had so much effect on our tiny niche market, but it did. Most of us tried to hang on, but if you were to pull out a hobby magazine from say 1989, barely a few companies and stores survived.
    The monopolistic, arragant worldview of TSR seems mirrored by GW today. If history repeats itself, they may fall as lowly as TSR has done. Would not count on it, because Gary believed D&D would continue to grow in sales by twenty percent per year forever. When it merely stayed static, the bloated expansions brought their financial house down.
    To be that poorly managed seems unlikely at GW. Still, perhaps by not reinvesting significant profits into the business, and angering the hardcore base, it is possible.
    The one thing to consider is that as bad as GW is, and as badly as they treat their fans, what would be the effect on the hobby if they failed?
    When TSR bottomed out, so many folks stopped buying at all. There is a rough, sad synergy. One company can bring in a lot of people if they have the hot product. to many of their fans, it is the product line that keeps them gaming. A lot don’t seem to try something new when their system of choice falls down.
    What do you think, Walt?

  3. What do I think? No secret there. I think GW is acting in a manner that fosters its primary goal of being a Big Business with a Capital B. In this respect, they are not any different from McDonalds, Exxon, WalMart, or Apple Computers. Their primary goal is to make money. Secondary goals MIGHT be to build up and energize their user base, innovate their product line, expand the paradigm of wargaming as we know it.. but I’ve seen precious little of that in the GW Business model in the last ten years. I think, maybe, that big business with a capital B and this hobby just isn’t a good fit. We’ve seen it before, as you point out, with the rise of TSR, then we saw it again to a lesser extent with the rise of Wizards of the Coast. Precious little concern with creating a community that can foster itself, and increasing concern about controlling sales and distribution of product with an eye on maximizing return. It’s actually an old story and we should not be surprised. If, as I suspect is inevitable, GW does go into a steep decline in the next few years, we will certainly see a decline in a certain niche of the hobby that ONLY gamed in GW sponsored hobbies. That isn’t insubstantial, but I would argue we are better set up with cottage industry alternatives today than we were 10 years back. The internet helped out with that, as well as cheaper resin figure packs. So I have hope, I guess. I definitely feel that if you want to change things, it has to start with each of us.

  4. John McConnell

    When you increase the price of a non-essential good or service at a rate that greatly outpaces that of inflation, eventually you are going to lose customers, regardless of how loyal they are. This latest stunt by GW may be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ll buy their stuff on eBay and at flea markets, but even on sale, the new retail prices are now just much too high. Independent brick-and-mortar stores that rely on GW sales are going to be hurt by this.

  5. Pingback: Games Workshop’s DREADFLEET, many years after Man O’ War… | Third Point of Singularity

  6. You guys really have to realise that everything in oz is more expensive. Games workshop are not a big bad evil monster. I have been a gw fan for many years and yes price rises do suck but it happens. I love this hobby and will continue to enjoy what I love. They make unreal minis and yes I understand there are other cool mini companies out there but truethfully when those companies get as big (if?) and expand their prices will continue to rise also. Good on gw for keeping sales in world zones, as if people don’t support the stores here then there won’t be any. They have great customer service, something I value really, and they amount of help and advice they give is awesome. Yes I realise its also to help sell minis and tools, but hey they r a business after all. Keep up the good work gw, I don’t mind paying extra for amazing product!

  7. USMCAviator

    You do know that the cost of MAKING them and increased demand is a major reason, right? Also, “Find another obsession”?
    FUCK YOU ASSHOLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • You know, my first response was to bark back at you, but honestly, that will get us nowhere, will it? So here, I think my feelings at this juncture are best expressed in song. Click here. Just to be sure we understand, she’s singing a tribute to you, my friend.

  8. the price rises aren’t really a surprise considering the recession….

  9. At the time of this writing its now $125 for 5 grail knights and $69 for an army book? This is in Aus. Really? $69 for an army book?
    Its funny how some items like grail knights or blood knights are over a $100 for 5 but a box of 8 KOTR is $55. What justify this difference? Surely not the materials…..

    I’ll tell you why, they know that Grail knights and blood knights kick ass so players fielding armies will want them bad enough to pay $150 Aus for 5 blood knights. It has nothing to do with cost… more to do with how much they can get out of us.

    @Ausguard666 – You say that GW prices are fair. But why is it that – army books in Australia cost $69 while army books in the US is $49? Don’t say its the shipping because even if you add on the shipping cost its way cheaper and the books ship out of China anyway. So really it should cost far far less….

    Bottom line is that GW is motivated by corporate greed and it will get worst before it gets better if ever. Noticed that White Dwarf is just a miniature showcase now and rarely have any articles of value?

  10. Because its run like a business. It manages to thrive. If companies would just cater to customers, they would go bankrupt.

  11. Eisenhorn the lesser

    Ya know. I typically am on the side of the little guy, fighting the monster corporation and trying to support small business. In this case though…not so much.

    Why? Easy..you hit the nail on the head, actually… You don’t have to play.
    No one puts a gun to your head and makes you shop GW; clearly, you have decided not to (or had, as of a year ago when you wrote this piece).

    If you don’t like the price increases (which WILL be an annual event, so get used to it), jog on! This is not a game for poor kids or minimum wage earning adults. The stores and the company exist, not to provide you with a cheap gaming experience. You can’t afford it? Not their problem.

    And don’t give me that crap about Privateer being cheaper. $99 US for 5 Retribution cav figs? Those are GW prices, doctor.

    You want to rage quit? Fine! Do it! Folks like me know the score and are still whipping out the wallet to buy what we like and, in the end, if that isn’t enough and GW fails…ok.

    Matter of fact, you have inspired me to go buy that new Hellcannon I wanted…so thanks!

  12. Hey good rant man i agree I’m from
    Australia and for a battle box for any race it’s
    $180 and our dollar is the same as the American dollar at the moment, I shop everywhere other then GW buying all my stuff from America cause its jus downright piracy what they are doing Down here and I hope the recession destroys GW.

  13. Dante Allagheri

    eisenhorn. U are obv a gw manager. How do u sleep at night? U must know u bullshit/steal from ppl for a living.

    We are not discussing people who don’t buy here. We are discussing loyal customers and etc. Pretty obvious you care for nothing an no 1 with that line. Only money money.

    • Hey, it’s a hobby niche with vocal partisans, nothing more than that. It happens. Eisenhorn’s trying to be smug by calling people “rage quitters” etc. It doesn’t mean he’s a GW store manager, he’s just a fan who hates to see the holy of holys get tarnished.